Pharmacists should not expect dispensing errors to be decriminalised until next year, the chair of the medicines legislation programme board has said.
Ken Jarrold told C+D it would be “much later” this year before the board had a “clear idea about the timetable” for creating a defence from criminal prosecution for inadvertent dispensing errors, but suggested that 2016 was “probably accurate”.
“We realise that may be frustrating, but there’s no point promising things that we can’t deliver,” he told C+D in an exclusive interview on Tuesday (February 24).
The Department of Health (DH) launched a consultation on decriminalisation and other changes to medicines law earlier this month – more than a year later than Mr Jarrold had originally planned. But it had been “difficult to predict” the delays to the decriminalisation, he said.
“We could be accused of being over-optimistic about the timetable, but we really wanted to get it out as quickly as possible.
“Of course we share the disappointment in the delay, but if there was over-optimism, it was well-intentioned,” he said.
The delays had been caused by a combination of “careful discussions” with a partner forum set up to support the work of the programme board, obtaining clearance from the government, and the “extremely busy” work schedule of the parliamentary council that needed to approve the legislation, Mr Jarrold stressed.
In its consultation, the DH proposed that a pharmacy professional or unregistered member of staff should have a defence against a criminal sanction for an inadvertent error if they met “strict conditions”.
These included showing they had acted professionally, had made a supply on the back of a prescription or patient group directive, and “promptly” informed the patient about the error once discovered.